Fr. Rogi Narithookkil
University of Dundee, Scotland
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The passion, death and resurrection of Jesus is called the Paschal Mystery. It is the Paschal Mystery that we re-enact in every celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass. Thus today, as we begin Holy Week, I invite you to join with me and with our brothers and sisters throughout the world as we celebrate the liturgies of the Paschal Mystery. These celebrations are not just historical recollections. They are opportunities to explore the meaning of suffering, of justice, of loss, of death and whatever hope there might be on the far side of death.
This morning we begin our solemn ceremonies with the blessing of the palm branches. We are reminded of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Then we hear the further story of how some of those who hailed Him as King later shouted for His crucifixion and death. Yet, through it all, Jesus never condemned them. He never resisted their attacks. He offered Himself up on the Cross and prayed for their forgiveness.Thus when we gather together in faith – as we are right now – and later throughout this Holy Week, we do not question God’s love for us. God’s love is total and absolute. He lived, He suffered and He died for us. He rose up to new life which He now offers to share with us.
The questions we need to ask are about ourselves. How are we responding to God’s sacrifice and His love? Are we truly repentant of our sins? Are we making every effort to come closer to God? Is our faith in Jesus the greatest priority of our lives? Meditate on this for a few moments so that we will then be able to make a public proclamation of our faith by holding the palm leaves in our hand and celebrate the Paschal Mystery with reverence and devotion.
“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold your king is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt”
Jesus entered the Holy City riding on a donkey, that is, the animal of simple country people and, moreover, a donkey that did not belong to him, that he had been loaned for this occasion. He did not arrive in a luxurious royal carriage or on horseback as the world’s great, but on a borrowed donkey. We read in the prophet Zechariah: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold your king is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt” (John 12:15; cf. Zechariah9:9). To understand the meaning of the prophecy, we must listen to the whole text of Zechariah: “He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (9:10). In this way, the prophet makes three affirmations about the future king.
First, he will be a king of the poor, a poor man among the poor and for the poor. Poverty is understood in this case in the sense of the “anawim” of Israel, of those believing and humble souls that we see around Jesus, in the perspective of the first beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount. Poverty in Jesus’ sense– presupposes above all interior freedom from avarice and the will to power.
Second, the prophet shows us that this king will be a king of peace: He will make the chariots of battle and war
horses disappear, will cut off the bow and command peace. In the figure of Jesus, this is concretized with the sign of the cross. It is the broken bow, in a certain sense the new, authentic rainbow of God, which unites heaven and earth and builds bridges between continents over the abysses. The new weapon Jesus puts in our hands is the cross, sign of reconciliation, of love that is stronger than death. Every time we make the sign of the cross, we must remember not to respond to an injustice with more injustice, to violence with more violence; we must remember that we can only overcome evil with good, without returning evil for evil.
The prophet’s third affirmation is the pre-announcement of universality: The kingdom of the king of peace extends “from sea to sea … to the ends of the earth.” The former promise of land is replaced with a new vision: The space of the messianic king is no longer … a specific country, which would be separated from others and which inevitably, would take a position against other countries. His country is the earth, the whole world. Surmounting all limitations, in the multiplicity of cultures, he creates unity.
With lively faith, then, let us approach this Holy Week with the recognition that the cross each one of us bears can be a real and true gift. To the extent that we see with the eyes of faith, we allow ourselves to enter that world of redeeming love and embracing grace. This is the world that Jesus proclaimed as he entered Jerusalem in triumph on Palm Sunday, fully aware that this was the prelude to both his death and his glorious resurrection…